Fiction > Harvard Classics > Ben Jonson > The Alchemist
Ben Jonson (1572–1637).  The Alchemist.
The Harvard Classics.  1909–14.
Act I
Scene II
FACE, alone 1

  DAP.  [Within.]  Captain, I am here.
  FACE.        Who’s that?—He’s come, I think, doctor.
[Enter DAPPER.]
Good faith, sir, I was going away.        4
  DAP.        In truth
I am very sorry, captain.
  FACE.        But I thought
Sure I should meet you.        8
  DAP.        Ay, I am very glad.
I had a scurvy writ or two to make,
And I had lent my watch last night to one
That dines today at the sheriff’s, and so was robb’d        12
Of my pass-time. 2
[Re-enter SUBTLE in his velvet cap and gown]

        Is this the cunning-man?
  FACE.  This is his worship.
  DAP.        Is he a doctor?        16
  FACE.        Yes.
  DAP.  And ha’ you broke 3 with him, captain?
  FACE.        Ay.
  DAP.        And how?        20
  FACE.  Faith, he does make the matter, sir, so dainty, 4
I know not what to say.
  DAP.        Not so, good captain.
  FACE.  Would I were fairly rid on’t, believe me.        24
  DAP.  Nay, now you grieve me, sir. Why should you wish so?
I dare assure you, I’ll not be ungrateful.
  FACE.  I cannot think you will, sir. But the law
Is such a thing——and then he says, Read’s 5 matter        28
Falling so lately.
  DAP.        Read! he was an ass,
And dealt, sir, with a fool.
  FACE.        It was a clerk, sir.        32
  DAP.  A clerk!
  FACE.        Nay, hear me, sir. You know the law
Better, I think——
  DAP.        I should, sir, and the danger:        36
You know, I show’d the statute to you.
  FACE.        You did so.
  DAP.  And will I tell then! By this hand of flesh,
Would it might never write good courthand more,        40
If discover. 6 What do you think of me,
That I am a chiaus? 7
  FACE.        What’s that?
  DAP.        The Turk was, here—        44
As one would say, do you think I am a Turk?
  FACE.  I’ll tell the doctor so.
  DAP.        Do, good sweet captain.
  FACE.  Come, noble doctor, pray thee let’s prevail;        48
This is the gentleman, and he is no chiaus.
  SUB.  Captain, I have return’d you all my answer.
I would do much, sir, for your love—— But this
I neither may, nor can.        52
  FACE.        Tut, do not say so.
You deal now with a noble fellow, doctor,
One that will thank you richly; and he is no chiaus:
Let that, sir, move you.        56
  SUB.        Pray you, forbear——
  FACE.        He has
Four angels here.
  SUB.        You do me wrong, good sir.        60
  FACE.  Doctor, wherein? To tempt you with these spirits?
  SUB.  To tempt my art and love, sir, to my peril.
’Fore heav’n, I scarce can think you are my friend,
That so would draw me to apparent danger.        64
  FACE.  I draw you! A horse draw you, and a halter,
You, and your flies 8 together——
  DAP.        Nay, good captain.
  FACE.  That know no difference of men.        68
  SUB.        Good words, sir.
  FACE.  Good deeds, sir, doctor dogs’-meat. ’Slight, I bring you
No cheating Clim o’ the Cloughs 9 or Claribels, 10
That look as big as five-and-fifty, and flush; 11        72
And spit out secrets like hot custard——
  DAP.        Captain!
  FACE.  Nor any melancholic underscribe,
Shall tell the vicar; but a special gentle,        76
That is the heir to forty marks a year,
Consorts with the small poets of the time,
Is the sole hope of his old grandmother;
That knows the law, and writes you six fair hands,        80
Is a fine clerk, and has his ciph’ring perfect.
Will take his oath o’ the Greek Xenophon, 12
If need be, in his pocket; and can court
His mistress out of Ovid.        84
  DAP.        Nay, dear captain——
  FACE.  Did you not tell me so?
  DAP.        Yes; but I’d ha’ you
Use master doctor with some more respect.        88
  FACE.  Hang him, proud stag, with his broad velvet head!—
But for your sake, I’d choke ere I would change
An article of breath with such a puck-fist 13
Come, let’s be gone.  [Going.]        92
  SUB.        Pray you le’ me speak with you.
  DAP.  His worship calls you, captain.
  FACE.        I am sorry
I e’er embark’d myself in such a business.        96
  DAP.  Nay, good sir; he did call you.
  FACE.        Will he take then?
  SUB.  First, hear me——
  FACE.        Not a syllable, ’less you take.        100
  SUB.  Pray ye, sir——
  FACE.        Upon no terms but an assumpsit. 14
  SUB.  Your humour must be law.  He takes the money.
  FACE.        Why now, sir, talk.        104
Now I dare hear you with mine honour. Speak.
So may this gentleman too.
  SUB.        Why, sir——  [Offering to whisper FACE.]
  FACE.        No whispering.        108
  SUB.  ’Fore heav’n, you do not apprehend the loss
You do yourself in this.
  FACE.        Wherein? for what?
  SUB.  Marry, to be so importunate for one        112
That, when he has it, will undo you all:
He’ll win up all the money i’ the town.
  FACE.  How?
  SUB.        Yes, and blow up gamester after gamester,        116
As they do crackers in a puppet-play.
If I do give him a familiar,
Give you him all you play for; never set 15 him:
For he will have it.        120
  FACE.        You’re mistaken, doctor.
Why, he does ask one but for cups and horses,
A rifling 16 fly; none o’ your great familiars.
  DAP.  Yes, captain, I would have it for all games.        124
  SUB.  I told you so.
  FACE.  [taking DAP. aside.]  ’Slight, that is a new business!
I understood you, a tame bird, to fly
Twice in a term, or so, on Friday nights,        128
When you had left the office; for a nag
Of forty or fifty shillings.
  DAP.        Ay, ’tis true, sir;
But I do think, now, I shall leave the law,        132
And therefore——
  FACE.        Why, this changes quite the case.
Do you think that I dare move him?
  DAP.        If you please, sir;        136
All’s one to him, to see.
  FACE.  What! for that money?
I cannot with my conscience; nor should you
Make the request, methinks.        140
  DAP.        No, sir, I mean
To add consideration.
  FACE.        Why then, sir,
I’ll try.  [Goes to SUBTLE.] Say that it were for all games, doctor?        144
  SUB.  I say then, not a mouth shall eat for him
At any ordinary, 17 but on the score, 18
That is a gaming mouth, conceive me.
  FACE.        Indeed!        148
  SUB.  He’ll draw you all the treasure of the realm,
If it be set him.
  FACE.        Speak you this from art?
  SUB.  Ay, sir, and reason too, the ground of art.        152
He is of the only best complexion,
The queen of Fairy loves.
  FACE.        What! is he?
  SUB.        Peace.        156
He’ll overhear you. Sir, should she but see him——
  FACE.  What?
  SUB.        Do not you tell him.
  FACE.        Will he win at cards too?        160
  SUB.  The spirits of dead Holland, living Isaac, 19
You’d swear, were in him; such a vigorous lack
As cannot be resisted. ’Slight, he’ll put
Six of your gallants to a cloak, 20 indeed.        164
  FACE.  A strange success, that some man shall be born to!
  SUB.  He hears you, man——
  DAP.        Sir, I’ll not be ingrateful.
  FACE.  Faith, I have confidence in his good nature:        168
You hear, he says he will not be ingrateful.
  SUB.  Why, as you please; my venture follows yours.
  FACE.  Troth, do it, doctor; think him trusty, and make him.
He may make us both happy in an hour;        172
Win some five thousand pound, and send us two on’t.
  DAP.  Believe it, and I will, sir.
  FACE.        And you shall, sir.
You have heard all?        176
  DAP.        No, what was’t? Nothing, I, sir.  FACE takes him aside.
  FACE.  Nothing!
  DAP.        A little, sir.
  FACE.        Well, a rare star        180
Reign’d at you birth.
  DAP.        At mine, sir! No.
  FACE.        The doctor
Swears that you are——        184
  SUB.        Nay, captain, you’ll tell all now.
  FACE.  Allied to the queen of Fairy.
  DAP.        Who! That I am?
Believe it, no such matter——        188
  FACE.        Yes, and that
You were born with a caul on your head.
  DAP.        Who says so?
  FACE.        Come,        192
You know it well enough, though you dissemble it.
  DAP.  I’ fac, 21 I do not; you are mistaken.
  FACE.        How!
Swear by your fac, 22 and in a thing so known        196
Unto the doctor? How shall we, sir, trust you
I’ the other matter; can we ever think,
When you have won five or six thousand pound,
You’ll send us shares in’t by this rate?        200
  DAP.        By Jove, sir,
I’ll win ten thousand pound, and send you half.
I’ fac’s no oath.
  SUB.        No, no, he did but jest.        204
  FACE.  Go to. Go thank the doctor: he’s your friend,
To take it so.
  DAP.        I thank his worship.
  FACE.        So!        208
Another angel.
  DAP.        Must I?
  FACE.        Must you! ’slight,
What else is thanks? Will you be trivial?—Doctor,  [DAPPER gives him the money.]        212
When must he come for his familiar?
  DAP.  Shall I not ha’ it with me?
  SUB.        O, good sir!
There must a world of ceremonies pass;        216
You must be bath’d and fumigated first:
Besides, the queen of Fairy does not rise
Till it be noon.
  FACE.        Not if she danc’d to-night.        220
  SUB.  And she must bless it.
  FACE.        Did you never see
Her royal grace yet?
  DAP.        Whom?        224
  FACE.        Your aunt of Fairy?
  SUB.  Not since she kist him in the cradle, captain;
I can resolve you that.
  FACE.        Well, see her grace,        228
Whate’er it cost you, for a thing that I know.
It will be somewhat hard to compass; but
However, see her. You are made, believe it,
If you can see her. Her grace is a lone woman,        232
And very rich; and if she take a fancy,
She will do strange things. See her, at any hand.
’Slid, she may hap to leave you all she has:
It is the doctor’s fear.        236
  DAP.        How will’t be done, then?
  FACE.  Let me alone, take you no thought. Do you
But say to me, “Captain, I’ll see her grace.”
  DAP.  “Captain, I’ll see her grace.”        240
  FACE.        Enough.  One knocks without.
  SUB.        Who’s there?
Anon.—  [Aside to FACE.]  Conduct him forth by the back way.
—Sir, against one o’clock prepare yourself;        244
Till when you must be fasting; only take
Three drops of vinegar in at your nose,
Two at your mouth, and one at either ear;
Then bathe your fingers’ ends and wash your eyes,        248
To sharpen your five senses, and cry hum
Thrice, and then buz as often; and then come.  [Exit.]
  FACE.  Can you remember this?
  DAP.        I warrant you.        252
  FACE.  Well then, away. It is but your bestowing
Some twenty nobles ’mong her grace’s servants,
And put on a clean shirt. You do not know
What grace her grace may do you in clean linen.  [Exeunt FACE and DAPPER.]        256
Note 1. The Same. The scene-divisions are Jonson’s. [back]
Note 2. Watch. [back]
Note 3. Opened the matter. [back]
Note 4. Has such scruples. [back]
Note 5. A magician recently convicted. [back]
Note 6. Reveal. [back]
Note 7. A Turkish interpreter, like the one who had recently cheated some merchants. [back]
Note 8. Familiar spirits. [back]
Note 9. An outlaw hero. [back]
Note 10. Probably a hero of romance. The name occurs in Spenser. [back]
Note 11. Five-and-fifty was the highest number to stand on at the old [back]
Note 12. The Quarto reads Testament. [back]
Note 13. Niggard. [back]
Note 14. That he has undertaken the affair. [back]
Note 15. Stake against. [back]
Note 16. To be used in raffles. [back]
Note 17. Table d’hote restaurant. [back]
Note 18. The gamblers (who frequented ordinaries) will be so impoverished through his winnings that they will have to eat on credit. [back]
Note 19. Supposed to refer to two alchemists, but the dates do not agree. [back]
Note 20. Strip to the cloak. [back]
Note 21. Faith. [back]
Note 22. Faith. [back]


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